Mitochondria play a critical role in bioenergetics, enabling stress adaptation, and therefore, are central in biological stress responses and stress-related complex psychopathologies. To investigate the effect of mitochondrial dysfunction on the stress response and the impact on various biological domains linked to the pathobiology of depression, a novel mouse model was created. These mice harbor a gene trap in the first intron of the Ndufs4 gene (Ndufs4GT/GT mice), encoding the NDUFS4 protein, a structural component of complex I (CI), the first enzyme of the mitochondrial electron transport chain. We performed a comprehensive behavioral screening with a broad range of behavioral, physiological, and endocrine markers, high-resolution ex vivo brain imaging, brain immunohistochemistry, and multi-platform targeted mass spectrometry-based metabolomics. Ndufs4GT/GT mice presented with a 25% reduction of CI activity in the hippocampus, resulting in a relatively mild phenotype of reduced body weight, increased physical activity, decreased neurogenesis and neuroinflammation compared to WT littermates. Brain metabolite profiling revealed characteristic biosignatures discriminating Ndufs4GT/GT from WT mice. Specifically, we observed a reversed TCA cycle flux and rewiring of amino acid metabolism in the prefrontal cortex. Next, exposing mice to chronic variable stress (a model for depression-like behavior), we found that Ndufs4GT/GT mice showed altered stress response and coping strategies with a robust stress-associated reprogramming of amino acid metabolism. Our data suggest that impaired mitochondrial CI function is a candidate driver for altered stress reactivity and stress-induced brain metabolic reprogramming. These changes result in unique phenomic and metabolomic signatures distinguishing groups based on their mitochondrial genotype.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Biological Psychiatry